|Lugano : the town|
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The narrow, unassuming Via Nassa . which nonetheless rivals Zürich. s Bahnhofstrasse for international designer-label chic . heads southwest from Riforma through a string of picturesque little squares to the medieval Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angioli on Piazza Luini. This plain little church beside a disused funicular track was founded in 1490 as part of a Franciscan monastery (suppressed in 1848 during Switzerland. s civil war). Inside, the wall separating the nave from the chancel is entirely covered with a monumental fresco painted in 1529 by Bernadino Luini that depicts, in intricate and gory fashion, the Passion and Crucifixion; up above is St Sebastian, graphically pierced by arrows. Frescoes of unnamed towns cover the three arches through to the chancel: beneath the left-hand arch is a depiction of Jerusalem. On the left-hand wall is another fresco by Luini, this time of the Last Supper.
A wander across to the lakefront park opposite the church reveals a bust of one .Giorgio. Washington set in a position of honour. Needless to say, Washington never set foot in Lugano; a nineteenth-century Swiss entrepreneur who had made his fortune in the United States donated the sculpture as a mark of honour towards the land of opportunity across the ocean. Some 100m south of the Chiesa degli Angioli on the lakefront is the Museo d. Arte Moderna, Riva Caccia 5 (Tues. Sun 9am. 7pm; entry varies), which puts on one or two fine-art exhibitions a year of world-class quality; watch for the posters around town.
East of Piazza della Riforma
A pleasant thirty-minute lakeside walk east along the shore leads you to the undramatic gates of Villa Favorita, also with its own bus stop (bus #1). This is the home of part of the famous Thyssen-Bornemisza art collection, the world. s second-greatest in private hands, after the Queen. s (Easter. Oct Fri. Sun 10am. 5pm; Fr.10). The Old Masters were shipped to Madrid in 1992 on a ten-year loan, and what. s left are excellent nineteenth- and twentieth-century European and American works, many of them by relative unknowns but all the more eye-opening for that. But the art is only part of the story: the villa can only be approached via a long cypress-lined path through lavishly beautiful exotic waterside gardens, a dreamy wander almost worth the entrance fee by itself. Once you arrive at the villa, the collection begins upstairs with some remnants of antique furniture and sculpture from the original, complete collection. Upstairs again is the main gallery, with works by Schiele and Munch standing out, as does the set of realist, poster-like works by artists working in the Soviet Union immediately post-Revolution. Perhaps the most startling work of all, though, is a photorealist New York street scene, painted in 1976 by Richard Estes with astonishing detail. The roomful of Toulouse-Lautrec lithographs, although the jewel of the collection, are somehow less impressive by comparison.
Once you emerge from the villa gates, you could continue your stroll east around the base of Monte Brè, joining the Sentiero di Gandria footpath through the gorgeous Parco degli Ulivi, a Mediterranean-style lakefront park shaded by olive trees, cypress, laurels, oleander and deliciously fragrant rosemary. This whole south-facing horn of Monte Brè is protected as an area of special scientific interest, revelling in a semi-tropical microclimate of near-continuous sunshine and just a handful of rainy days a year. After about an hour. s wandering, you come around to the picturesque village of GANDRIA, rising straight from the water a few kilometres west of the international border, and inaccessible by road (although still swamped with day-trippers). Right beside the landing stage on the opposite shore, served by plenty of boats from Gandria itself as well as Lugano centre, is the Museo delle Dogane Svizzere (Customs Museum; April. Oct daily 1.30. 5.30pm; free), with a moderately interesting collection of customs-related bits and bobs that lack decent English notes, although the displays relating to smuggling methods speak for themselves.
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